Kolkhorst, Frank file essential caregiver legislation

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 12/22/20

State Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and State Representative James B. Frank (R – Wichita Falls) announced that they have both filed legislation to solidify the rights of residents of long …

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Kolkhorst, Frank file essential caregiver legislation

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State Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and State Representative James B. Frank (R – Wichita Falls) announced that they have both filed legislation to solidify the rights of residents of long term care facilities to maintain contact and personal visitation with their loved ones during state emergencies. Executive orders and facility policies have restricted or forbidden visitation at such facilities since March in response to COVID-19.

"I have listened to emotional stories from constituents and heard from desperate families across Texas who were not allowed to see a loved one for months. While there is a public health mission to protect our vulnerable populations from COVID-19, that pursuit should not send residents into a state of solitary confinement with no personal contact from family or friends, " Kolkhorst said.

The joint press release from the two legislators said they were filing the bills after seeing multiple instances of constituents being denied access to family members in nursing homes and other long term care facilities such as state supported living centers. The Health and Human Services Commission updated emergency rules in September to allow residents to designate up to two essential caregivers. These caregivers are provided training to allow them to safely enter a facility for scheduled visits to help ensure family members’ physical, social and emotional needs are met. The legislation would establish that practice among other licensed nursing homes and assisted living facilities to establish that same practice in such facilities.

"These vulnerable Texans need the care, communication, and physical touch of loved ones and the experience of human interaction that is crucial to quality of life and to both physical and mental health," Frank said. "I am heartbroken at the dozens of stories I have heard of a spouse or a parent who died after living their final months in isolation. The Legislature must work this session at ensuring that these tragedies are not repeated in the future."

Kolkohorst chairs the Texas Sentate’s Health and Human Services Committee and Frank chairs the Texas House’s Human Services Committee. These bills and others will be taken up when the 87th Texas Legislative Session begins Jan. 12, 2021.

"I look forward to working with everyone touched by this issue, so we can ensure the rights of long-term residents and make clear in the law that those lifelines to their family and friends will never be broken again," Kolkhorst said.

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